The Psychological Society of the Yukon has received complaints on a regular basis from members of the public who thought they were accessing the services of a psychologist when they actually weren’t, according to president Charlene Bradford.
The News sat down with Bradford for an interview at her office on Aug. 8.
“We have heard of people in the territory who are using the title of ‘psychologist’ when it’s not the most appropriate descriptor of their training and expertise,” Bradford said. She didn’t put a number on how common this practice was or name names.
“Right now, anyone can call themselves a psychologist,” she said.
“At this point, they’re not actually breaking any laws.”
Regulating the practice of psychology will make the term “psychologist” a restricted title in the Yukon, Bradford said.
The Yukon is the only province or territory in the country that doesn’t currently regulate the profession. That could change in 2024, if the Yukon government follows through on its work to regulate the profession under the Health Professions Act, which already regulates pharmacists, midwives, registered psychiatric nurses and physiotherapists.
Bradford has been a registered psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists and practising in the Yukon since 2015. Her society has been pushing for regulation since the society was founded in 2019.
“One of the most important pieces about regulation is that it sets up a minimum standard for practice for psychologists,” she said.
Bradford said regulation will bring in requirements in terms of education, training and experience, as well as a code of conduct.
“What this ensures is that when you’re going to a psychologist, you’re getting someone who is deemed appropriately trained with appropriate experience and appropriate supervision of their work,” she said.
Given that making a mistake with or harming someone’s mental health doesn’t necessarily leave a visible injury, like with physical health, Bradford indicated regulation ensures that people working in the mental health field are competent.
Regulation will also bring in a formal complaint process, she said.
It remains unknown if the Yukon government will publish disciplinary actions like, for example, Alberta does.
When asked if the Yukon government should publish disciplinary actions, Bradford said, “I think that’s a big part of keeping people safe.”
An Aug. 3 press release issued by the Yukon government indicates regulation will set up clear procedures for resolving complaints and disciplinary matters.
Stephanie Connolly is the director of professional licensing and regulatory affairs in the territorial Community Services department.
In an Aug. 7 phone interview, Connolly said regulating psychologists has been a long-time coming.
“We’ve put our resources to it and are bringing it in for 2024,” Connolly said.
Connolly couldn’t speak to whether non-psychologists are claiming to be psychologists in the territory.
“We don’t regulate, so we don’t have that data,” Connolly said.
While Bradford suggested regulation will shift the onus away from the client, Connolly disagreed.
“I think it’s important for everyone to recognize that the onus is always on the patient. Even once we regulate, it is important for a patient to advocate for themselves and then to ensure that the psychologist or any practitioner that they’re working with is the right fit for them,” Connolly said.
The Yukon government has a voluntary list of 11 psychologists, as well as sample questions and guidelines for people contemplating psychology services including counselling and therapy, on its website.
“We do not authorize, validate or endorse any of these psychologists or their practice,” reads the website.
“If you do not see your psychologist on this list, it may mean they have not contacted us to be included.”
Per the release, the society, along with practising psychologists and regulators in other jurisdictions, will be asked to review the proposed policy direction that will inform regulation. Connolly said the Yukon government is seeking feedback before finalizing policy decisions and drafting materials to share with cabinet.
Bradford confirmed the society received the technical document last week but isn’t in a position to comment on it quite yet.
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com